This article was originally published in Rudo Can’t Fail issue 8.
By Roy Lucier
The early ‘90s was not just a great time to be a pro wrestling fan, but to also be a fan of lucha libre. I consider myself extremely lucky, in that in March of 1992, I sat next to a fan at a WWF house show in Anaheim who had a strange new fanzine with him, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. My life would never be the same again.
Before the Observer, my whole exposure to wrestling was thanks to a satellite dish, where I was able to catch many promotions around the United States. But thanks to Dave Meltzer, I learned what channels I could watch lucha libre on, and also read about local shows in my area where lucha libre was taking place! After months of reading the Observer and “Dr. Lucha” Steve Sims’s “Lucha Libre Weekly,” finally there was a show that I was able to attend, at Cal State Los Angeles in September of 1992, run by Benjamin Mora. I would be hooked for life. The same stars that I was seeing every week on satellite were right there, live in front of me! Being 18, I was completely star struck by seeing guys like Negro Casas, Los Brazos, Rayo De Jalisco Jr., Los Villanos, Vampiro Canadiense (who made his U.S. debut on Halloween 1992 at that building), and dozens others. By waiting for hours after the show near the exit, I would get the chance to take pictures and get autographs with all the biggest estrellas from Mexico.
Mora stopped running in early 1993, so in order to get my lucha fix, I needed to look elsewhere. And elsewhere is where I found what will probably be the greatest memories of my entire life; the weekly Friday night shows in Compton, Calif. To those who first hear the name “Compton,” it usually brings up the mental images of NWA and gangster rap and drug dealing and murder, but to many of us, this wasn’t our picture of Compton. Compton, to us, was lucha libre every single Friday night.
Run by Sergio “El Platano” Garcia, who also doubled as the lead rudo referee, at the Salon Zacatecano hall on the corner of Compton and Atlantic, there was never a dull moment at these shows. While Mora’s Cal State shows would feature the top stars of CMLL, Platano would bring in the top names of the hottest promotion in the world, AAA. Depending on who was in the main event that night, ticket prices would range from $8 to $15. Even when Platano brought in Mil Mascaras, I don’t remember ticket prices being more than $15. The little building held about 800 fans inside of it, you literally had to park your car in a row, and could not leave until the show was over. They had no air conditioning whatsoever, but seriously had the greatest wrestling in the world.
The opening matches were usually local guys that wouldn’t jump out to the normal fan, but all of us who came weekly came to love every single luchador on that show, whether it be a tecnico or rudo. The fans who showed up every week became a brotherhood, and those friendships still last to this date thanks to social media. The fact that I’m a white boy from Garden Grove who’s only Spanish at the time was “chinga tu madre” and “Arriba La Rudos” never stopped me from enjoying the show and having a blast with the fans. Waiting to get a seat, you would hear the ring announcer playing “Cumbia De Las Luchas” over the loud speaker. Even over 20 years later, I cannot hear that song and not think of Compton. There was a merchandise table, with masks and figures, and videotapes of previous shows sold by a local guy who ran a TV repair shop named George, who always had a neck brace on.
Then came the lucha! Every match was always in true lucha fashion, best two out of three falls. You would usually have opening matches featuring guys like Poison, Impacto, Mercurio, El Zarco, Al Muerrita, Rosa Salvaje, Crazy Boy, Mujer Maravilla, Dama Enmascarada, Ultra Rojo, El Sagrado, and hundreds of others. You came to appreciate the feud between Poison and Impacto, who literally broke bones and bled buckets week after week for the fans. There was incredible high flying, excellent technical wrestling, and bloodbaths that would put any death match promotion worldwide to shame. Week after week, I would prepare for these shows with my “100% RUDOS” sign, and cheer on the most hated luchadores of the night.
And there were the guys who “stood tall,” whose work ethic earned them main events with the stars from AAA. There was local lucha legend, Piloto Suicida, who once beat Eddy Guerrero for the WWA Welterweight Title back at Cal State L.A. on August 29, 1992. He often worked tours of Michinoku Pro in Japan, and was a favorite of all local promoters due to his in-ring storytelling, his use of psychology in the ring, and his amazing high flying, which rivaled any big name in any company at the time. There was Bobby Bradley, a trainee of Billy Anderson and Jesse Hernandez’s school in San Bernardino, who could literally do any style he was asked to do, high flying, technical, and either play rudo or tecnico and just own the crowd either way. Super Boy was a big name at the time as well, who literally had no fear in the ring and did some of the most amazing high flying for a man of his size. He was also a regular of the Michinoku Pro promotion. One of the most underrated was Principe Joel, who had one of the most memorable matches of all time in Compton against Super Astro, culminating in a singles match that ended when Astro’s chest was cut up and he had to be rushed to a hospital from the blood loss. Joel was a Johnny Valentine type in that he literally would make you believe that when he was in the ring, he was the real deal with his chops and punches.
And, of course, there were the stars that Sergio brought in every week. You literally wouldn’t know until the week before who he signed to appear, but you knew you would have to be there and couldn’t miss it. From Chris Jericho (February 1996), to the feud between Rey Misterio Jr and Psicosis being continued from AAA to Compton every week November and December of 1994, Mil Mascaras, Super Astro, Damian 666, Martha Villalobos, Dr. Wagner Jr.; the list literally goes on and on. If they were a big name in the business in lucha, Platano would have them wrestle there. By patiently waiting after the show, all the big names were accessible as well. If you wanted a picture with any of the workers, every single one of them was nice enough to take the time to take one with you. I will never forget the show where Chris Jericho showed up, especially since my job at a local 99 Cent store had me scheduled to work that day, even though I asked for it off. I was told, if I didn’t come to work, I would be terminated. Needless to say, my priority was to see the man who had set Arena Mexico on fire as “Corazon De Leon,” and I never worked for that company ever again.
Needless to say, in late 1996, I made some poor decisions in my life that took me out of the lucha scene for quite a few years. But I have never forgotten the friendships, the fights, the Friday nights, the blood, the broken bones, and everything in-between that glorified exactly what those Friday nights meant to me for years. There’s a song by Bryan Adams, called the “Summer of 69” where he talks about the best days of his life. If I ever wrote a similar song, besides being a husband and a father, there would be no doubt that the best days of my life would be those Compton shows and the great lucha libre I witnessed first-hand.